Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to Naval Gaming

I've given up using the Blitzkrieg map for land gaming. That was a bit of a bust, and as I said, I now know how Abraham Lincoln felt.

So what am I doing to replace it? Pre-dreadnoughts!, but not necessarily the stately battleships blazing away at each otehr with a huge amount of ill--aimed artillery. No, I just read Neptune's Inferno, and wanted to get back to something I'd done a long time ago: small ship actions in confined waters. Or, in other words, battleships may show up, but don't count on it. Expect cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats battling away.

I've tried a lot of naval rules. For personal reasons, I did not care for Cordite & Steel (ships blew up too much). Battle Stations was fun, but you have to have the passion for it. Fletcher Pratt - no, I tried it and don't care for it. General Quarters? Fun, but a bit more generic than I wanted. Shipbase III? Same as Battle Line - you have to really want to do it, but good set other than that. Fear God and Dread Nought? Grand Fleet? Mini-Fleet Dreadnoughts? Again in all three cases, you have to be a dedicated naval gamer. Damn Battleships and CA suffered from being too generic. All of those rules have their strong points, and I've done all of them at one time or another.

Back in the 1980s I played Fire When Ready with Dan Weisman. This was a Metagaming product with not so hot physical components, and a really excellent game system. I found out that the person who wrote Shipbase III wrote a computer program to do FWR. I found it on the web (a free download). Even better, it allows you to do your own scenarios, and ffers suggestions for conversion to the gaming table.

A couple of years ago I'd been seized by this urge to do Russo-Japanese naval battles. I had cruisers and destroyers. Perfect. All it needed was a scenario.

The iland of Bingo Bango likes in the Gulf of Bango. It is claimed by two adjoining countries. A plebiscite is going to be held, supervised by Great Britain and Germany (neither of who wants the place). In preparation for this plebiscite, both sides are trying to influence the people. Of course they can't do it through open means, that would be no fun. So one side will ship in bagpipes to annoy the othe, while the second side will bring in small yappy dogs and let them run free, again to annoy people. Sounds like what politicians would do, doesn't it.

To test things out, I arranged a preliminary clash. Each side had two cruisers. The fight would be in the fot. That meant the range was point blank. How close was that? Maximum range in the fight was 1600 yards. One side was sunjk, and the other was converted to scrap because of too much damage when it got home. Excellent!

The Real First Battle -

Both sides sent a convoy out, for merchan ships. Escorts were a cruiser, two destroyers (more properly torpedo boat destroyers), and four destroyers. Gamers were recruited at a hobby shop. Both sides started in line ahead, and on Turn 2 decided that close action was better. The cruisers stayed back, the rest charged into a melee.

The exact details of the fight got confusing. Torpedo boats don't take much damage. Destroyers don't take much more. There were collisions, deck fires, and sinkings all over the place. The last torpedo boat, while sinking, fired its torpedo at maximum range at the last surviving enemy ship (a destroyer) at maximum range, 400 yards. And scored the only torpedo hit of the game, sinking the destroyer.

The cruisers had shelled each other at long range with little to show for it. After the debacle with the smaller ships they carefully steered their convoys away from each other to bring them in. The merchants did conduct rescue operations for a bit. Thus both sides succeeded and failed. They didn't stop the enemy convoy, but got their own through.

Everyone wanted to go again (time constraints said otherwise). But a good time was had by all. And people are talking about the next battle.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 24, 2011

So Much For That War

You would think that after a long personal experience with wargaming I would appreciate that different eras require different skill sets in wargamers. Someone who is good at a WW2 armor/infantry game might not be so good at ancients. How much worse, then, when it is the 18th Century? I've seen this in games of Frederick the Great (now by AH) and Napoleon in Italy. The 18th/19th Century gamer will respond to moves and countermoves. A lot of WW2 gamers will bull ahead, and we'll end up with a horrible smasyh. Maneuver to secure an advantage is a lost art with a lot of them.

For that matter, I've seen the "smash ahead" type WW2 gamers lose badly to someone who maneuvers and sets up situations.

So what happened?

Disaster on the Zocchi!!!!!

I have been in search of a general or two who would get the war off to a start. Every gamer I tried looked at the river, decided this was not their cup of tea, and sat still, awaiting events. Finally I found a tankie who decided that aggressive action was the key. And he had all of that cavalry just sitting there.

He crossed the river, going north. His opponent had set up cleverly one hex back from the river. We went through the steps outlined in previous posts. Our tankie massed his tanks, er cavalry, and charged.

I'm not sure if Operation Goodwood or Minden is a good example of what happened. To be blunt, the defender shot the daylights out of the attacking and unsupported cavalry. Then, when that failed, he belatedly tried an infantry advance. No finesse, just an assault all along the line. The same thing happened, and this time the defender unleashed his cavalry on disordered foot.

Well, that decided the battle then and there after only four turns. Then, with the former attacker now backed against the river, the former defender pushed forward and launched a new attack on an army that was basically a disordered mob.

The former attacker took 35,000 men across the river. In the first battle he lost8,000. In the second he lost 14,000. That's 22,000 lost out of an army of 35,000. That is an estimate, by the way. I haven't even bothered to look at the casualty rosters.

To quote a friend about a miniatures battle from long ago, it made Custer's Last Stand look like a near-run thing.


All that preparation, and it was fairly pointless. Still, if I wanted to boost my own ego, I'd take my 1813 Prussians up against this tankie. I don't even want to consider what would happen if I took my 1806 French up against him. After a while it wouldn't be fun.

After it was all over I heard him mutter that this never happened when he took his Jagdpanthers and Tigers up against Sherman tanks. I think I'll leave his education to someone else.

I might try this again, but a) with a different map, one I'll create and share; b) different gamers who are versed in the period.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All Quiet on the Zocchi


Years ago I was told that from time to time a wargame situation would occur that actually mirrored real life. I can now attest that this is true. I know how Lincoln felt from just after Antietam until Lee began to move north in June of 1863. Both armies moved out, both went into camp, and both waited for the other side to make the first move. I goaded. I pleaded. I even rplaced commanders. Nothing worked. Both sides stared at each other and claimed the river prevented any activity.

So I'll have to think of something. This isn't quite the campaign I anticipated.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Armies Arrayed

I decided to use my 9mm figures because the lads hadn't been out for years and years, and needed the exercise.

This is more or less based on the French. The Army mustered 46 battalions, 47 squadrons, and 7 batteries. This does not include 4 squadrons of irregular cavalry (see, in the French Army, cavalry outside of the Household are "light"). They were promised reinforcements, of which more anon.

The base of the army was Hanoverian, of which I could field 9 battalions, 21 squadrons, and 3 batteries. To this was added mercenary contingent of Prussians, 33 battalions, 58 squadrons, and 5 batteries. Four irregular battalions, and four irregular squadrons came along for the loot and plunder.

Ober-Bierfest allies: Swedes, of which I have 6 battalions, 6 squadrons, and a battery.After due consideration I threw in the Russians, 7 battalions and 13 squadrons, and 4 batteries. The Cossacks stayed home. I might have the mounted arms appear first.

Future allies - we'll see.

So Saxe-Schweinrot has better quality infantry, but less of it, and Ober-Bierfest has quantity. The mounted arm favors Szxe-Schweinrot. As for the paucity of artillery, alas it is an expensive arm of war.

The muster points were set (VV-12 and OO-42), and now both sides sat down and pondered: here we are at wary. Now what?

Coming soon, the first moves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Combatants, and more

There was consternation in the two capitols (OO-31 and JJ-46), and not a little head-scratching. A border clash! War! Excuse me, WAR!!! Immediately both parliaments and Crown Councils sprang into action, levying horses to field the armies.

The head-scratching came as ministers poured over the accounts. Just who had ordered these military expeditions? And where had they fought? You see, the border between the two countries is a river, and yet if you reread the account of the battle you'll see not a single mention of a body of water (and what was in the casks in the Quartermaster Stores did not count as water). Well, there is a simple explanation, one that covers everything.

Map reading error.

See, I told you I consulted the great and good Prince Tedron of Methylonia. He specialized in these sorts of affairs, and he so arranged everything.

Cooler heads wanted to know where was this gold mine, where was the border clash, and where were the regiments that had taken part. Rumors flew of corruption, of misleading reports, and so on. All for naught. There would be war when Spring rolled around, and that was that.


Now after all of that talk about movement systems, just how did this all occur? I used Campaign Cartographer to create a hex-based map. I didn't have a river on there, my bad, but it added to the fun. I took my "away" kit of miniatures, rosters, rulers, and foot-sticks, and rounded up some Warhammer and RPG types at a local hobby store to fight the battle after a suitable mini-campaign. I even provided the dice! All they had to do was sit down and play.

I think there is a truism somewhere that low throws in movement are balanced by high throws in combat, and vice versa (at least that has been my experience). The armies squared off across the hex sheet, and both commanders threw a '1'. Both decided to "stay off the roads because the enemy would be expecting that", and both ignored whatever movement bonus the generals had, so both moved a hex.

Another pair of '1's. This was going to take all day. After a third move, one of the commanders decided to build a depot (that was the baking bread reference). He forgot to garrison it so it was inactive. The other side threw a '5' for movement, which is why he suddenly moved fast. But after five turns of map moving they finally sighted each other.

One side promptly deployed his entire army, and had all sorts of problems dealing with the terrain. The other stayed in march column just a little too long, and lost some men when contact was made. By the way, both sides had their genrals well out front, leading by example. But finally they squared off to fight.

I'd forgotten that I was dealing with people who played a lot of Ancients. They promptly tried to put every man in the front line, read the rules about shooting being two dice, but melee being four, and charged.

This is where the dice "made up" for their poor moving experience. This was Volley & Bayonet, so 6's hit. Both sides threw a lot of 6's. Whole battalions vanished in a blaze of musketry/melee. One side rolled over the other, pressed on, and ran into the second line (the troops who wouldn't fit in the first line). Which promptly returned the favor. Again a lot of 6's were thrown. Blood was flowing in quantities sufficent to over awe even a WW1 General. It really looked like whoever had a regiment left would win.

Both sides were disordered, and half of each army was in rout. Neither side could really advance on the other, so I declared the battle over. I collected all of the rosters and other impedimentia of war and retired to my game table to sort through it. The gamers were talking (as I left) about using V&B for an Ancients set of rules, though they would get rid of distant shooting by the infantry.

I've seen this sort of deployment before. Once at Enfilade! I put on a 6mm Napoleonics battle, just a couple of divisions on a side with open flanks so the light cavalry got sucked off to the flanks to protect them. I deployed both the Austrians and the French in two lines. Both sides promptly shoved all of their men into the front line with no reserves. I concluded that a halfway decent tactician would have these guys for lunch. Worse yet, some of them wouldn't understand why or how they lost!

I really regretted that these Ancients gamers wouldn't get a lesson in 18th Century tactics and strategy, but they're somewhat irregular in their gaming (well, so am I), and people who get too badly hammered don't always return. I'll think of something.


So the armies are mobilizing. One country is significantly smaller than the other, but they "enjoy" higher subsidies from their patron, and so the armies will work out about the same. The countries are open with rolling ground and a few roads, so that'll make for some interesting campaigning. And I'm going to recruit some map generals who have some idea of what they're doing. Have to come up with a die roll method as none of these people will meet face-to-face for a while.

In the meantime recruiting parties are sweeping up the ne'er-do-wells and the young nobility, the two groups that traditionally are only a drag on society, giving them uniforms, and otherwise mustering. As the Spring Thaw sets in and grass comes into the fields the initial deployments will get made, and then the moves.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Initial Clash

In all fairness, this part of the border between Saxe-Schweinrot and Grosser-Bierfest had never been adequately surveyed. The locals felt (rightly) that that much official attention would be followed by taxes. So surveyers were shot, bludgeoned, and otherwise dispsosed of. When that did not deter officials (surveying parties grew larger) they resorted to bribery. That was a mistake. The gold they used whetted the appetites in both capitols. Politicians are, after all, addicted to money.

The Erbprinz of Saxe-Schweinrot got wind of this, recalled a law dating back to the 13th Century that all government officials were members of the army who served at the Grand Duke's pleasure, and announced that what pleased the Grand Duke was for these officials to serve in the front line as the officer commanding battalions. There were those who questioned that law, but the Erbprinz produced a copy on parchment (after first using a forced draft from a local smithy to dry the ink). Now please recall that in those days the officer commanding the battalion had to stand in front of the battalion to give it "proper direction". Sadly the Erbprinz recalled that old aphorism: "You peculate the big bucks only at your peril."

The Duke of Grosser-Bierfest was a little more practical. As long as he got paid off, he didn't care how much you stole. However since he wanted 155%, it didn't take these officials long to decide they didn't want to be in debt to the Duke.

Both sides set up convoys that went into the area, mined the gold, and left. But soon rumors began to filter across the nominal border that there was a lot of gold to be had just over the hill. Both sides decided they wanted to control all of the gold, and were not willing to share. Both decided the best way to do this was to send a few troops out to secure the gold mine. And then they'd redefine the border to prove they were rightly just protecting their territory.

The Schweinrot forces mustered at the small river town of Wasserdam. They numbered six regiments of foot (12 battalions) and 20 squadrons of cavalry, just over 10,000 men. The Bierfest troops numbered 10 battalions and 20 squadrons (the battalions were stronger, so the total came to just over 10,000 men as well), plus a couple of guns. They mustered at the town of Muhlhaus, downstream of Wasserdam (both are on the Wasser River). Lt. General Plumper was put in charge of the Schweirot troops. He would face General Klepterov in the coming battle.

Note - the forces were determined by a die throw.

General Klepterov was not the most imaginative of generals. He flung a couple of squadrons out in front a couple of hundred yards as a "scouting screen", and on a fine autumn afternoon, marched out. Owing to the lateness of the day they made a mile before having to camp for the day. The second day they moved a little faster, reaching three miles. Clearly General Klepterov did not believe in exhausting his troops by marching. This "blistering" pace continued, but after three days they stopped to bake bread. Two days later they stopped to celebrate General Klepterov's wife's sister's birthday. Here they camped because nobody would campaign on a Sunday.

His opposite number sat in cantonments "analyzing" the situation. Only a direct order from the Erbprinz (and a sharp note from the General's wife that he had promised to be gone only a week) goaded him into action. Plumper made up for lost time by decreeing forced marches and "extraordinary" efforts. His troops responded with marches of 10 miles on two successive days. After such prodigious feats they had to rest for a day (the General was having second thoughts about hurrying home).

Halfway between the two gold mines lay the town of Giltbrick, a community that was there to serve the needs of the miners. It had a decent tavern, an imposing cemetary, and a church that people traveled for miles to see. Both generals set their sights on the town as a place to rest for the night.

Plumper was the first to decide something strange was going on when his cavalry scouts were seen having a drink with strange cavalrymen wearing the uniform of Bierfest cavalry. Reacting with celerity, Plumper deployed his men. They then had to endure an eight mile march while in line of battle. This necessitated frequent stops to correct the alignment, so it wasn't until two hours before sunset that they came in sight of the Bierfest troops.

On his part the near-sighted Klepterov remained oblivious to any approaching forces. He was just short of Giltbrick when he realized that there were enemy troops present. This happened when he stopped to utilize his flask, and a Schweinrot trooper had to help him get the cork out. This (and the particularly fine brandy) forced him to react. He called for a deployment of the whole army!

Deployments were processional, and so it took two hours to get the 10,000 Bierfest troops into line. As nobody wanted to be the second one to strike a blow, the colonels deployed their men in one line of battle with the cavalry on the wings. The Schweinrot troops had been disorganized by the last march, and two regiments had fallen behind owing to an inhospitable series of beehives. This meant that the Schweinrot forces were (accidentally) in two lines.

Note - I found some guys who were willing to try a "quick" scenario at a local hobby store. I set up the troops, and then sat back to take notes. One force promptly deployed into one line, while the other remained in two, but only because he couldn't get everyone in the front line.

Both sides decided the only proper thing was to advance to point-blank range and open fire. And so they did! Battle was immediately joined all along the line. The Bierfest troops enjoyed immediate success in the center, while the Schweinrot forces drove off the enemy cavalry, but only at considerable cost. After an hour of intense fighting (we were using 15 minute turns) the Bierfest flanks were both on the defensive (i.e. stationary) because of threatening cavalry, but the enter was advancing victoriously, the Schweintrot troops fleeing in panic in front of them.

Remember those two regiments that couldn't make it into the front line? The Bierfest troops learned about them while disorganized. Their advancing center was thrown back, and some of the Bierfest troops broke and ran. The lines stabilized and both generals frantically rode around patching things up (rallying troops from rout) while the troops blazed away at each other until it was too dark to see.

Night fell, and both generals stumbled into each other in Giltbrick as they sought a drink after an afternoon of carnage. Over dinner of poached roast pheasant they glumly assessed their losses. In immediate terms both sides could muster about 2,000 men. But with troops returning from rout both sides eventually worked out that they had about 7,500 men each. A truce to bury the dead was worked out, and the two sides sat there eyeing each other for the next week. Both governments ordered their troops back, except for cavalry to picket the area.


The importance of a second line was brought home to both sides, though I think only one side learned that lesson (Bierfest). The devastating dice throwing by a couple of the regiments in the Bierfest army was truly something to see. The only thing that saved the Schweinrot forces was the success of their Horse. They tied down 40% of the Bierfest army. So there was a glimmer of hope for both sides. Both generals were retained in command, though not the supreme command.


Both sides "absorbed" the "lessons" of this fight, even as delarations of war for this "unprovoked" attack were issued. More on that anon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Questions - and some answers

I have received some questions about what I'm doing here, and I'll try to answer those I think are relevant, or that pique my curiosity.

#1 - Why Don't You Post More Often
This is a simple one. Real Life. Work has been busy, and there are other requests on my time, such as my writing, some home improvement, and the like. I'm no longer a full-time wargamer; sad, but true.

#2 - What About Other Rules? "Ruleset XYZ is Much Superior, and..."
Wargame rules are personal. There are a ton of game systems out there, and they don't always fit what each gamer is looking for. There are different philosophies and mechanics between, say, Warfare in the Age of Reason and Koenig Krieg, and my past experiences with both sets of rules have prejudiced me against one of them -- and no, I'm not saying which one, but those who have heard my stories will know. Everyone who wargames finds this or that set of rules with which they are comfortable. For me, Volley & Bayonet works for this period. It feels right. Now as to the difference between v.1 and v.2, that remains to be seen.

I would sooner argue religion than debate wargames rules. There are people who take it that personally. I will go on record as saying that I prefer Hordes of the Things as an ancients set to Shock of Impact, having played enough of both to have a very FIRM opinion, but that's it.

#3 - What About "Minor" battles?
That remains to be seen. However I will probably post a CRT for those. But the whole point of campaigning is to: a) give a reason for the battles; b) generate something other than the evenly matched fight. And while 4:1 is no fun to play, I've pulled off a rearguard action against an entirely mobile force, and made it work. I've also been on the wrong end of 3:1 odds from converging forces, and gotten away.

#4 - Why Hexes? Why Not . . . ?
Because I have this perfectly good hex map sitting downstairs gathering dust. Maurice de Saxe once wrote that you would be hard put to find a position that could hold 50,000 men in each province. There was almost a kind of positional warfare in the 18th Century because everyone knew the good positions, and they would use them. Frequently. A box-to-box campaign system such as in Soldier Kings is very good at replicating this. But I had this map, see... So why not?

#5 - Will There Be Pictures?

#6 - Which Minor Countries Did You Choose?
I'm getting to that. Years ago, in a game of Blitzkrieg, I played a very nasty trick on my opponent. I did not invade one of the minor countries. I left a force watching the border, but I bypassed the country. Of course he had to do the same (detach a force) and those troops were a long way from the main front. That got me interested in those countries.

These two border on one of the major combatants of the game Blitzkrieg. They are both egged on by the larger power under the assumption that this is a good place to train officers, get some combat experience, and weaken these two minor countries for later seizure. However the other major power is pumping money into the area, too. This is giving these smaller countries a chance to buy a lot of troops that they could otherwise not afford. Will it suck the larger powers into a war? Perhaps. Smaller wars have a disturbing habit of becoming larger ones. But maybe saner heads will prevail at the Chancelleries. We shall see.

This conflict has been brewing for some time. The immediate cuase is a gold mine that is right on the border. As the very astute Duke of Plaza-toro, Ltd. (95 quarterings in arrears) once stated, "A Class A gold mine on the border is a causus belli." That has indeed proven true. Both of these minor countries realize they are being played, and are struggling to stand on their own two feet. Right now they have no realistic hope of a Woodrow Wilson showing up, mucking everything up out of pig-headed idealism, and laying the groundwork for a greater war. Those events lie in the future.

So, it is time to generate a border incident to spark the wider war. This will be a limited incursion by both sides, or something. Prince Tedron of Methylonia, who was ennobled for creating a border incident between two countries with no common border, will be consulted. And the details, and the actual combat, will be displayed very shortly.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Correcting the Math

I had a private email pointing out that my method of assigning initiative would given an even application of skills, contrary to my post, and produce a general with an initiative of 4. Neither was what I intended. So it's time to do the old DM trick: choose different dice.

Average dice have a 2,3,3,4,4,5 and those tend to group in the middle. Low-average dice are similar, but produce numbers weighted for the low end. A typical one would be 1,2,2,3,3,4, but in this case I want a little more extreme, so let's use one that goes 1,1,2,2,3,4. Come to think about it, usually matches my die-rolling in a lot of games. If we only subtract one instead of two, we get a nice range of lower initiative generals.

So, that'll be the measure of the generals. And remember, we're rolling for "divisional" commanders and above. Think wing commanders and "column" commanders in this period as the division hadn't been invented until 1745, and then only in Maurice de Saxe's army in Flanders.

Now when one gets promoted through attrition, you get to roll his initiative all over again! This means the guy with the initiative of zero might turn out to have a three at the next level, and vice versa. There is such a thing as promoting beyond ones level. And there's historical justification for this. There are generals who got promoted simply because there wasn't anyone else available, who turned out to be great at the higher level.

One reader asked a bout "special promotions" where you promote someone due to valor. Not quite. Not in this period. Instead the worthy gets a promotion within the nobility. He might well be the model of a modern Major-General, but now, instead of being a Baron, he is a Duke. That makes for a less-expensive promotion from the monarch's point of view as that worthy has to maintain his social standing at his own expense. Expect peculation to increase. Another promotion might be to give him his own regiment (an already existing one, of course), but one he can rename after himself. At his own expense, of course; new gowns for the mistress and the wife are not cheap, and he has to purchase that regiment, and pay you. See? When you're the monarch, money-making opportunities abound (why do you think the new Elector of Hesse-Kassel, when he came into the title in 1760, doubled the number of regiments in his army by simply splitting all existing foot regiments in two? All of those new Colonel-Proprietors had to pay him the purchase price).

So now we go on to the armies.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Initiative and stuff

It's a sad but accurate comment that during times of peace the generals with initiative are discouraged, while those who know how to play the paperwork game are promoted. Read the poem by Rudyard Kipling, "Stellenbosch" for an example. The early part of any war is spent shaking out the fighting generals from those who can push paper. Both have their places and both are useful. It is a sad state of affairs that many people have to die while this is taking place.

But with that said, there are generals who are more "pushy" than others. Sometimes they can be identified early in the process. Robert E. Lee comes to mind. He was as good as everyone thought he would be. And he had tons of initiative.

What Is It?

What is this initiative? He's the officer who has his men ready to march or fight, and is up getting a jump on his foe while others are still in bed. Or, in better chosen words, he's that "...silly pushing person" that Kipling refers to in "Stellenbosch".

So we'll rate the generals in our armies for their initiative. This will be a number between -1 and +3 to rate how they react to things. A 3 might be Jeb Stuart or Nathan B. Forrest (to go with an ACW reference), while a -1 might be McClellan, who needed a strong reason to move. For those who want to quibble and suggest Burnside, it's clear that you haven't studied the Fredericksburg campaign. If those *&%*%$ pontoons had been in place, he'd be hailed as a Great Captain for stealing a march on Lee.

Determining Initiative

Nominate a general. Throw 1d6. Subtract 2. That number is the general's initiative. It is used when marching or force-marching. Thus Stack A, with a General in command with an initiative of 2 throws for movement. He throws a 2, and adds 2 for his initiative, for a total of 4 hexes he can move.

Look at Stack B. This is commanded by someone with an initiative of 3. He is force-marching for whatever reason. He throws a 5, plus the 3 for initiative gives him 8, though the max he can move is 6. But as his total was 6 or more on his force-march roll, he loses 3 SP through march attrition. Your higher initiative generals can get out of trouble, but they burn troops. And remember, there are no replacements during the campaign season.

Promoting Generals -

Before you roll for initiative we have to assign the seniority of generals. This is important because those with greater seniority cannot be in a stack, or have fewer men, than someone with a lesser seniority. Also, as generals are lost for whatever reason, promotion is strictly by seniority. To do otherwise would be to insult the honor of those generals. And if this means your army is commanded by a general with an initiative of 0 or -1, well, that kind of sucks.


Not during the campaign season. After the campaign season ends troops enter winter quarters by going into a friendly unbesieged fortress and declaring they are in winter quarters. That means they are not subject to attrition due to bad weather. They also can't move. If the enemy is so crass as to then besiege that city, those troops will take part in the resulting open field fight before the siege starts.

During the winter season, while the officers and generals are off attending balls, the sergeants are busy rounding up fresh cannon-fodder. Basically all regiments that have at least one hit left on them are automatically filled out to full strength. Those regiments that were reduced to zero are "sent to the rear" and take no further part in the game. Moral - sometimes you want to give battle, but don't want to afford the losses that will happen. This also means that armies will get smaller the longer the war continues.

There are no new units created during the war. You have what you start with. This is because the administrative mess that would result is not worth the effort.

So, that SHOULD take care of the last of the details, now a look at the armies and the land they're going to campaign over. Then we'll have a shakedown cruise with a border incident.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Turn Sequence and Disorder

Years ago I likened the role of a turn sequence to the steps of a computer program. You follow the sequence in order, completing all steps one at a time. When you do, you get the result the game designer wanted. The hard part was designing that process by the game designer. And unlike what happened to me with a program I wrote for a billing system, I don't have people criticizing the "style" of the turn sequence (if you must know, it was written in COBOL and I used tricks learned in FORTRAN classes. I can't believe how many "so-called" sophisticated and "experienced" programmers have never heard of "computed GO-TOs" and "Fall-Through" coding; my sin was that I used hard "GO-TOs" not PERFORMS.)

For the turn sequence in these rules we'll use what was from Frederick the Great. Why? Well, it works, and it captures one of the most important things about 18th Century battle: that battle was a seduction, not a rape.

Okay, harsh analogy, but the deployment methods for an army were such that you really needed to march up the day before and offer battle. In the time it took you to perform your processional deployments, the other side could count noses, take the auguries, and decide they didn't like things, and march away. But SPI built a kicker into the whole thing. When you marched away, you used a "force march", and if you exceeded a 6, you burned troops. You added the general's initiative with the roll of a 1d6 to get the final total, and poor old Fritz, with an initiative of a 3, had a 50-50 chance of burning troops. But battle almost had to be by mutual agreement, hence the analogy.

So both sides get a chance to move, though they don't have to take it. And you have to put in some of the other things that happen. So let's jump in and take a stab at it.

  1. Depot Creation
  2. Roll to Remove Disorders*
  3. Side A rolls for movement
  4. Side A moves
  5. Side B announces any forced marches
  6. Side B rolls for those forced marches
  7. Side B executes those forced marches
  8. Combat
  9. Repeat 2-7 for Side B
  10. Supply checking and attrition
  11. Roll for sieges

That's enough for a start.


This is the collective funk that an army goes through after a defeat. An army that fights a battle and loses, is "disordered". This means all morale values are reduced by one. These values are calculated after losses have been calculated and adjudicated. Also, a stack subtracts one from their forced march roll when they are "disordered".

To get the troops back in "order" there are two methods. First, a general (the senior-most general on the stack) rolls against his initiative. If he throws his initiative number or less, the troops are put back in order. The other method is for the stack to move to a friendly fortress, and stay inside for a complete turn. Thus: army enters on Turn 4. They stay there for all of Turn 5. On Turn 6 they are no longer "disordered" and can leave with their post combat losses morale and no longer suffering the -1 on the forced march roll.

We'll talk about the initiative values of our generals later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some Odds and Ends

More on Generals

Okay, I'll confess it, Generals are "chrome" to the system. I prefer to know that it was General Hund-Hund who was killed or wounded, ont General #7. And with the way the rules are written, taken literally, a hard-fought campaign can do you out of generals. We know this doesn't happen, though command talent can get mighty thin in a prolonged war.

So players should name their generals. Put them in the nobility, and invent colorful biographies for them. Thus we can have General Sir Hugh Hackwell-Slashem, the famed cvalry leader, Sir Pickaninny Pouncetrifel, the Auditor General, and most beloved of all, Citizen Field Marshal Lord Stanley of Umbrage (he successfully took Umbrage, a town in Imaginary Germany). The more joking, the better. For example, the Colonel of the Marine Regiment is Lagostin (which I believe is lobster in French). The regiment has yellow facings because lobster with butter...yum!

So as generals fall by the wayside, new ones step forward to risk life and limb. The sprigs of the nobility have to be pruned from time to time.


Both armies have guards. They number, at most, a company. They snap to attention and thump their halberds on the groun when nobility passes. The palaces are guarded in turn by regulars who take turns doing it.

Grenadiers? More later. A pernicious habit, by the way.

Now to describe the armies -- next post.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ah, Generals

Everyone who has played rules I've written know that I like dead generals. The air around a battlefield has a high metallic content, and generals are not bulletproof (as Marshal Vauban reminded Louis XIV). Even Emperor Charles V (known to those who took more than one year of Spanish as Carlos Quinto) tried to laugh off the danger ("Who ever heard of a cannoball killing an Emperor?"), but the danger was real. Marshal Turenne was killed by a cannon shot, and bullets and cannons cut a swath through the ranks of Napoleon's marshals (Oudinot was wounded 23 times), while the American Civil War was replete with the loss of general officers. The men tended to fire just a little high, and mounted officers were right in the middle of the danger zone.

Usually I have a little fun with general officer casualties. For example, in King's War a player who loses a general throws a 1d10 and reads the results from a table. There the results go from the general KIA right away to "general mortally wounded. Faithful aides lower him from his horse. He gasps out some final words for a grateful posterity. Players must compose those last words." This adds some fun as those "last words" go from "who ordered this stupid charge?" to some uplifting and heroic statements. The game actually stops while people labor at their "last words".

Sad to say, in Volley & Bayonet, Road to Glory, there isn't really room for that, at least at the highest level. This makes sense as the turns are one hour, and that is enough time to sort out the command changes caused by a bullet. This is a pity as it adds an element that I think is kind of fun. At the lower level this can be worked into the game.

What is the effect of a general being removed from the battle? Loss of command and control. Units lose coordination, orders are not obeyed, and so on. But in a one hour turn? The loss of a general, while personally bad, doesn't have a big effect in game turns. However...

If a general is within 3" of a unit that takes any kind of fire (artillery or small arms), throw 1d6. On a 6 the general is down and a replacement takes over. This is only applicable on the map where the general's counter is removed. He is either dead, or is back in the capital, reclining in bed, eating sweetmeats, intriguing against his fellow-generals, and being seduced by all of the right women. Players can make up whatever stories they wish about the general. He is available for the next season.


What's next? The effects of defeat on an army. And the odds and ends in the rules that need to be covered. We also have to discuss the countries (where they are on the map, etc.) and the armies (including the official Order of Battle).

And then we get into putting the pieces together courtesy of Prince Tedron of Methylonia (who once arranged a border clash between two countries with no common border) in a mini-campaign done as a solo map exercise.

Then...on to the campaign!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Operational Level Gaming

I was first introduced to this by an old SPI boardgame whose name escapes me at the moment. What struck me at the time was how I would do the "proper" boardgame tactic and mass enough forces to wipe out the enemy, only to have that blasted counter fall back instead. I was used to the D-Elim combat results, and it took a little reading to remember that units were not normally wiped out in the course of a fight. Oh, granted, in WW2 there were armored units that ended up with no tanks functioning at the end of a fight, but there were other assets in the division/brigade/combat command/kampfgruppe.

A few months later I saw one of the best microarmor games ever. There was a crossroad with only one or two buildings, not enough to be much of a strongpoint. But right nearby was a large wooded hill. The enemy had an observation post up there, and no tank was going to go wandering through the trees. This was a job for the infantry (much despised by a lot of treadheads). In they went. Artillery fired in support, but two turns after it was requested. And that meant that it wasn't always accurate, had to be adjusted, and so on. Both sides got stuck in, reinforcements were sent in, and quite a lively battle developed. I don't recall who won. I do know that everyone appeared to have a good time, and all of the fearsome armor on both sides sat around doing very little.

I watched that, and wondered why nobody tried to outflank the position. A week later (we were gaming every weekend at a local hobby shop) I saw someone stare at a position, and decide to turn it. We ended up with a map game for a bit, and then got stuck in as a small force (mine) fought a delaying action while reinforcements marched to the scene. This was very much what nobody had expected. And it was a lot of fun.

This wasn't always likely in the 18th Century, especially the earlier part. Armies (and generals) were still in the unitary mode. This meant that you concentrated everything on the field of battle, being as strong as you could at the point of contact. The Duke of Marlbofough tried something different on the battlefield that 100 years later became Waterloo, having his brother with 20 battalions hidden behind the enemy position, but the Dutch Deputy on Mission, Slangenburg, couldn't see it and managed to hold things up enough that the battle was not fought. Marlbofough didn't try that again. Well, okay, Overkirk at Oudenaarde, but not after that.

Part of the problem was communications. Part of it was administrative, and part was social. After a bit you didn't say no to the CiC, even if you didn't agree with him. Marlborough managed to overawe his subordinates enough. Frederick tried managing separate forces at Torgau, and showed how all of the problems you had when someone didn't keep to the timetable. The Austrians in the Seven Years War were pretty good at the different columns concept, but Maria Theresa would remove the generals who caused problems. And de Saxe, in the War of the Austrian Succession managed to make it work, but by then he was a Marshal-General, and only the King and Dauphin outranked him. Even the most pig-headed member of the French nobility had to take orders from that "Lutheran bastard".

Now part of it was also doctrine. As I said, these were unitary armies. The detached columns were the province of only the top generals. It wasn't "normal", and it took both the invention of the division (pioneered in 1745 by de Saxe) and a few books on mountain warfare before the idea began to work its way through the officer corps. But you needed a common doctrine, staff as well as otherwise, and that didn't happen very often. The Austrian staff advances in the Seven Years War deteriorated afterwards because it wasn't encoded and become part of the regulations. The French finally achieved it in the 1790s, and others copied it. It brought a flexibility to warfare that made things a lot more fluid.

So how do we imitate this on the tabletop? Well, we don't, not directly. I know of one attempt right now, sort of a "narrative" campaign. You issue orders ("Brigade A to move from Point A to Point B"), and the GM carries them out. Will it work? Perhaps. I hope so, but it depends upon the GM.

For our miniatures campaign, there is nothing to stop players from using detached forces to achieve campaign objectives. But be warned, small forces can suddenly confront the enemy main army and get crushed. I've fought tabletop battles where I was outnumbered 3:1, and it is no fun. I escaped, but that was more due to the enemy not talking with each other.

So look for fights where one side is outnumbered, and not by a little bit. Expect some huge disparities. But also realize that while one side can be outnumbered at Point A, that means they probably outnumber the other side at Point B. Tit for tat. That is one of the reasons we fight miniatures campaigns. It sure isn't to generate "even" fights. (insert rant about "even" fights here).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Praise of Different Scales

Campaign Rules blogging will cease for a moment to respond to reader Jeff's comments, and one possible solution.

Jeff points out that if you have a deployment area that goes to the edge of the board, you will have players that will rest their flank there. This is true. I have seen players anchor one flank on the edge, and another on the back edge of the table, deploying obliquely so they do not have a flank that can be turned.

Now while we can't use the German solution to make a single breakthrough, create two flanks, and then turn both (you have to admit it's more efficient that way), there are two competing things, perhaps three going on.

First, gamers will be gamers, and if you give them the opportunity, there are some who will get every advantage they can out of the rules. I do and don't have a problem with this. Rules can be interpreted. However the interpretation should be backed up by historical evidence (even though this is a game), and should be consistent. The ones I don't like are those who will argue vehemently for Option A when it favors them, and then, just as vehemently, argue against Option A when it is turned against them. So when you write rules you have to take into account these people. One way is to do what Phil Barker did with DBA/DBMM and prescribe deployment areas to get a straight-ahead battle. This works in the Ancient and Medieval periods, but not so well in later eras where the whole point was to create an uneven battle.

Second, "Let the Bazaine's be Bazaine". Each gamer comes with some inherent military ability. It may be well-hidden, or strictly limited. But let them exercise it. Do NOT dictate anything to them that forces them to behave in an ahistoric manner. Do not get in the way of a gamer making a blunder. DO get in the way of one wanting to act in a way that is outside of the period. So the 18th Century gamer who wanted to move his men forward in loose swarms and skirmish lines was disappointed. That wasn't contemporary military thought.

Okay, let's look at scales; 28mm, 15mm, 6mm, and the like. Using V&B, RtG scale of 3" for 1500 men, my 8' wide table can hold 32 units in a single frontage. If foot, that's 48,000 men. That, by the way, is regardless of whether you use large figures, or small. If we go to the 2/3rds scale, that is 48 units, which is 72,000 men. That's just the first line. Double the numbers for the size of the army.

If, say, we went with the scale in Little Big Battles, a battalion taking up 1.5", a division of 10 battalions comes to 15" in a single line; 8" when deployed properly. There is nothing so beautiful as to see someone deploying a corps of three divisions of infantry, a division of cavalry, and guns, and realizing that he has two exposed flanks. Anchoring everything on hills/villages becomes sensible. And all of that beautiful cavalry gets sucked to the flanks for scouting and protecting, not available for thundering charges.

But as beautiful as the smaller figures are (I have a friend who painted glasses on his Marshal Davout figure in 6mm!), and they do get the spectacle you want of a large battle (I did a refight of the only major Austrian/Russian battle in the Invasion of Russia in 1812 and people were taken with the spectacle because the attack looked like two divisions going forward), the overall spectacle of miniatures was lost on the casual observer.

The guys in Oregon did Blenheim, Ramillies, and Oudenarde in 28mm. A 28mm figure, ostensibly 25mm, but my belief is that the figure designers longed for the old 30mm Surens, and so "scale creep" took place, which might explain why 15mm figures are now large 18mm, closer to the old 20s, is nearly five times the size of a 6mm figure. That's 25 times the volume with the requisite surface area. It looks big and impressive. This is what the casual observer expects to see when he wanders into a Con. And they look suitably impressed when you tell them that each figure was painted by hand.

Now, in my opinion, those larger figures look better when you have a large number of figures in a unit. In the smaller scales we can somehow get away with 6-8 castings equal a battalion, and people will "believe" it. I think that in the larger scales you need to go to 24-30 castings per battalion. Bill Protz fielded his Protzdam Grenadiers with 60 castings in the unit, and it was breathtaking. Mike Lonie did the Coldstream Guards in 25mm, a 60 casting unit, and it was like a red wall stretching across the battlefield. Gesturing at something that could be covered by a single sheet of paper, and telling people that that was the entire French Imperial Guard circa 1808 didn't seem as breathtaking.

And face it, the spectacle is important.

And this is the beauty of gaming. Every person finds what is "right" for them. If they want three corps on the tabletop with both flanks open, or they want enough metal figures that they have to get special shocks for their car (Isandlwhana in 30mm with all troops present on both sides!), there is room for them.


So how does this "fix" the problem with people resting both flanks on the edge of the world? Even "deployment areas" have their problem. At a DBA game in California Phil Barker found himself so hemmed in by an enemy built Up Area and impassable terrain that he could only send his troops forward in a single column one element wide, where he was promptly smashed by his clever opponent. An extreme example, mind you (and the rules for Built Up Areas changed right after that - go figure), but an example of what can happen. The other problem with a designated "deployment area" is there might be more troops present than the ground can handle. This invites what we call "rout in echelon" where Unit A runs backwards into Unit B; both then run into Unit C, and so on. Don't laugh. In the rules Shock of Impact I had that happen more than once, enough that I don't play those rules at all. Ever.

So what is to be done? Recall that the intended miniatures rules are Volley & Bayonet, Road to Glory with 3" linear bases for the foot, and 3" square bases for the horse. See the above point about the maximum amount that can be put on an 8' table. With that in mind, a deployment area of sorts becomes necessary. So, after all of this (hopefully not tedious) wandering, we come to the following:


Players cannot deploy within 12" of either side edge of the table, and cannot deploy closer to the enemy than 24".

This gives a "deployment box" six feet wide on an eight foot wide table, and two feet deep on both sides, assuming a six-foot deep table.

Now why V&B? Well, I like it, it's simple yet subtle, and it doesn't matter if you use 2mm figures, hair-curlers, or 40mm castings, as long as you use the same base size.

That said, I sill like the idea of players suddenly realizing that they have two open flanks on the tabletop. In a lot of gamers that induces a "fear of defeat" and they get cautious. In a few others, it makes them a lot more reckless and aggressive. Just one of those things.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Sabers flashing in the sunlight, the bang of pistols, the cry of horses and men. Hussars, chasseurs, chevaulegere... Not quite, but close. Louis XIV had one regiment of hussars, a total of four squadrons. Scouting and screening was done by ordinary cavalry.

There were limits on what generals could do. For example, in some armies patrols had to be from several different regiments so the loss of a large number of men (always a possibility) wouldn't heavily hurt one Colonel or Captain (who had raised the troops). Other generals used dragoons for their scouting, but dragoons were often mounted infantry, and were better suited for outposting/defensive work. Dragoons, though, often had other uses as advanced guards.

There were other, simple methods of conducting scouting. One of the easiest and most common was to develop a uniform plate. This is simply a visual of each enemy regiment. You could show this to a peasant or a town dweller, and they could point to the uniform they saw. That way you soon knew the regiments that were present. Enterprising officers would also scour the letters at the local post office, sometimes learning the names of generals who had passed through.

Getting Practical

We don't put individual regiments as counters on the map. Ideally all we have are generals. But there was often enough other information available that people would know: 2) the opposing generals; 2) a rough count of numbers. But there are big differences between "He has 50,000 men" and knowing that it is 42,500 men. So how to translate it?

So: a player can ask his opponent the names of the generals in a stack, though he doesn't have to give their seniority. He does have to give their rank. Second, when asked, a player has to give the strength of a stack within 5,000 men (he can round up or down).

This is crude and simple, but at the beginning of a campaign players have to give each other a copy of their order of battle, though without the strength of each regiment/brigade.

When playees write their accounts of the campaigns and battles, it would not be surprising if they minimized their strength and maximized that of the enemy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Conversion to Tabletop

It's not too soon to start considering how to convert a map game to a tabletop game. This has several parts: figure conversion, terrain, and results. There's also the not-inconsiderable problem of converting things back to the map. So let's work on the easy stuff first.

Figure Conversion

We've already done part/most of that. A strength point (SP) is 500 men, which is the scale of Volley & Bayonet: the Road to Glory (or the earlier version, too). At three SP for a field regiment of foot, and four SP for a cavalry brigade, we are well on the way.

However, you are looking at a mass of undistinguished SP in that stack of counters. How to relate them to what appears on the tabletop? You have to keep track of your foot regiments/cavalry brigades/artillery battalions. Tedious? Not quite. This is what rosters and/or spreadsheets are for. If I know IR Chef de Fer has 3 points, I can keep track of them until they lose some. Then I simply keep track of the new strength. Everything is done in 500 man increments. Besides (and here comes the rationalization), opposing generals didn't always know that the opposing army had 38 infantry regiments and 20 brigades of cavalry. They did know that it was 42,000 men.

Converting back from losses...we'll get to that in a bit.

The Battlefield

There are a lot of good methods of determining the battlefield. My favorite was to have good friend Mike Lonie sketch it out. Mike would invariably sandbag himself, making my job easier (unless we were on the same side). But not everyone has access to his talents. So we have a variety of other methods. I'll list them, and then choose one.

  1. Use the maps in Warfare in the Age of Reason. This is a good excuse to get those rules. Roll for the map you'll use.
  2. Place terrain the way they do it in De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA). The resulting terrain will be fairly open with only a few bad places, much like what generals preferred. The "built up area" problem will exist, but I've found that treating them as rough going solves a lot of problems (unless it is a fortified town).
  3. Assign terrain pieces to the value of a playing card and lay out the terrain that way. You never know what you're going to get, and so this is probably more for WW2.
  4. Take the surrounding terrain and "compress" it into that hex. This works on those game maps with a lot of terrain, such as the SPI games. This map doesn't have that. But it's a good idea for the next iteration of this system.
Do we keep that terrain as the defined battlefield in that hex? Personally I think that's a good idea as generals pretty much knew where the good fighting areas were. Maurice de Saxe commented that a province would have one, or at most two suitable positions in it. This isn't the Napoleonic period, by the way, where a fight could brew up at most any place.

So, I'm going to favor Method #2 - the DBA one. It's simple, interactive, and so on.

Deployment -

Do we keep the deployment areas of DBA? No. A clever person can make it so his opponent has no place to deploy, and while that's historical, we're not after that. Instead, the back 6" to 12" of the table is the deployment area. How close to the edge? Up to the edge.

Reconciling Losses -

This gets a little trickier because not all losses are permanent losses. Bruce Catton (in Mr. Lincoln's Army) thought an army permanently lost 60% of all reported losses. Experiences in the Napoleonic period confirmed that number. British experiences (Wellington in the Peninsula) suggested it was closer to 50-50. The truth is probably somewhere in between. But in an effort to hold down paperwork...

Look at the roster at the end of the battle, and apply the following rules of thumb.
  1. If a unit has lost 4 hits, they get two of them back "the next day". The other two are gone for good.
  2. If a unit has lost three hits, they get one back right away, lose one permanently, and can get the other one back by losing a step in morale.
  3. If a unit has lost two hits, they get one back "right away" and lose the other permanently.
  4. If a unit has lost one hit, they get it back if they take a step down in morale grade.

Players will find it wise to staff rear areas with units that are only worth one hit. Real generals didn't leave units that had been run down in the line unless they had no choice.

What if a unit is totally wiped out using this method? Well, you can end up with a lot of Morale Grade 2 and 3 units, all worth one hit. Rotate those units back to the lines of communication and/or into a fortress where they can "recruit" up to strength (they'll be available the next campaign season).

What of attrition losses? Can I take those losses from the weakest units? Actually, no. Those men are the survivors who would hang on. You have to take your attrition losses from the more up-to-strength units. If it means anything, losses in horseflesh always exceeded the manpower losses. Horse are more delicate than humans. And cheer up, high morale units tended to not lose men through attrition.

Just remember, your opponent doesn't know the strength of that unit he's facing. He could be in for a nasty surprise, or a promenade.

Odds and Ends

All general officer losses are permanent (at least for the campaigning season. Of course in V&B you don't have generals becoming casualties. So it's time to rectify that. If a general is touching or within 1" of a unit when it takes fire casualties, or that unit is in a melee when the general is touching or within 1", there is a 50-50 chance the general is a casualty (men tended to shoot just a little bit high). For humor, come up with a table that tells what happened to the general.

Why so high a chance of getting hit? Well, you peculate the big bucks, you take your chances. There is a high metallic content to the air around a battlefield, and having a general intercept some of that can be most...unfortunate.

One complete turn after a general is hit, his replacement takes over. So a general is hit on Turn 4, the replacement takes over on Turn 6.

Artillery losses are different as most artillery battalions are only worth one hit. Artillery losses from fire are reconstituted the "next day" at one morale grade loser. Artillery losses from melee are gone. Period. And as for regimental guns, a foot unit that routs loses their regimental guns (the pieces) as captured. Note, when you capture some guns you are not allowed to use them yourself. Thyey become war memorials and are put on display for people to ooh and ahh at.


So now let us turn our attention to scouting and intelligence, two reasons to have cavalry, and yes, two mutually exclusive concepts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Siege Rules

We could fight the siege out on the tabletop. I wrote the siege rules in Age of Reason, and have done quite a few tabletop sieges. It's way different than an open field fight. A field battle is kind of fluid. There's movement, and things ebb and flow. In a siege, everything feels static. But there's a certain inevitability. But, let's assume that we don't have a table to dedicate to this, or the miniature fortress.

The Basics

A siege is really an exercise in supply. By the 18th Century a siege was more or less semi-predictable. As a rule of thumb, seven weeks after the opening of trenches, the defenders should be in a position to surrender. Now this assumes a whole lot of things go right with the supply. But in 1708 a lot of the campaign focused around prosecuting or defending the siege of Lille. In fact, if one wants a mini-campaign, that is the perfect excuse.

So, the attacker has to establish a valid depot on the city. That represents the siege works. Every turn that the depot is in supply, the attacker throws 1d6 and subtracts that number from the siege value of the fortress. When the siege value is zero or less, the fortress surrenders.

Now when making this die throw, every time a six is thrown, the attacker loses a strength point. If there is a garrison other than the "automatic" one (i.e. field troops sheltering in the fortress) they move to the nearest unbesieged friendly fortress. If there aren't any, they become prisoners of war to be exchanged later.

For those who thinks this means sieges will be too short, an average fortress siege strength of 14 should be sufficient.

What of the defender? What recourse do they have? They can try to break the supply line, which keeps the siege die throw from happening.

Extra about Supply

All troops outside of a fortress lose three strength points every turn starting on the November 1st turn. So a force that is 20 strength points on the December 15th turn, will be on their third turn of attrition. Readers will note that the average depot will suddenly go ungarrisoned due to attrition, putting all sorts of people out of supply. The lesson here is to go into winter quarters in a fortress.

Troops who are in a fortress on the November 1st turn are automatically considered in Winter Quarters, and cannot come out of them.

So now we can move the troops, and feed them. We've also given a reason for the campaigns. So now we will turn our attention to such things as recon, and things like that. Then we will have to deal with the diplomatic situation, and the early stages as the armies mobilize and gear up for war.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Supply Rules

"Feed me! Clothe me! Pay me!" Always me, me, me, never a thought for their poor monarch who has three palaces, a mistress, and a wife. Oh, the travails of being king (Mel Brooks notwithstanding).

Actually, supply rules can be as complex as you can stand. Let's see, this is the 18th Century, so for each combatant figure one hanger-on. Officers will have two to seven non-combatants that they support, and then we get to the general staff. There should really be a separate supply train just for the general staff. You never know when you're going to have to entertain all sorts of people. Hmm, and then there's the support staff, the necessary jugglers, acrobats, and so on. Even the Ladies of Negotiable Virtue (did you know the Croix de Guerre was awarded to two ladies of a Mobile Field Brothel for their activities in the French Indochina War?)

Let's say one man consumes one unit of food and one unit of water every day. An army of 50,000 would consume 50,000 units of food and 50,000 units of water every single day, whether they are in camp or marching. But then there are the horses. it turns out that the 18th Century average for a 50,000 man army was 30,000 horses. it's not just the cavalry, it's the artillery, it's the ones pulling the wagons, and so on. A horse consumes roughly ten times what a man consumes. A man can eat meat, a horse can't, but let's skip over that. And they both drink water. So This 50,000 man army needs 350,000 units of food, and 350,000 units of water every single day. This explains all of the campaigns in the river valleys of Northern Italy and those in the Low Countries. That's where the food and water were.

And I haven't even touched on the hangers-on, lackeys, servants, wastage, and so on. They would often destroy more than they would eat. No wonder soldiers were perpetually short of food.

When I do the calculations for a 50,000 man army, I come up with the food requirements of China. The spreadsheets to feed, pay, and clothe these people would be a game in itself. So let's try the Freddie the Lesser game system approach.

A Simpler Way -

A stack of counters can be fed out of a depot or a city if they are within six movement points of that source. The line cannot travel through an enemy occupied hex, so you can't supply an army from a besieged fortress (I saw someone claim that he could in a different boardgame). Now if that depot is within six movement points of a city, it can supply troops six further points away from the depot, and so on. You can have a line of depots stretching across the map, provided they all are connected to a depot (that's connected to a depot, that's...) that sooner or later connects to a friendly and unbesieged city.

That depot must be garrisoned by at least three strength points. Someone has to work the ovens and so on.

To establish a depot, a force of at least ten strength points spends an entire turn in one hex doing nothing but establish the depot. The beautiful thing is you don't need a general in order to not move.

Attrition from Supply

Oh my goodness, something has happened to the supply lines. If this was the Napoleonic period it would probably be that Corsican fellow. But it's not. So we get to have rules about what happens when there is no food.

Simple. Every stack loses one strength point per turn when the stack is out of supply. This is actually fairly benign, but it suggests keeping all of the men in one place. Independent columns are subject to the same thing.

Let's add that you cannot roll for the conclusion of a siege when the besiegers are out of supply. Fighting battles to interrupt a siege was very 18th Century.

But Wait! There's More!

So let's stick an addenda into the movement rules. Something to encourage people to spread out a bit so they can move, because moving 50,000 men and 30,000 horses down a single road is almost impossible. Think traffic jams, for starters.

So, if a stack has more than, oh, 30 strength points in it, it has one less movement point available from whatever it rolled. This modifier is applied after the die roll and checking for attrition. If it has 60 or more strength points, it has two less movement points available, again, after the die throw and checking for attrition.

So, march divided, fight united. This sounds Napoleonic, but it was obvious much earlier. Marlborough used it during the Siege of Lille.

So that is the basis for the supply. Astute observers will note that I spoke in terms of movement points, not hexes. Supply lines through rough terrain will be shorter, and they will be much longer on roads. That's the idea.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011



In the game Frederick the Great, a turn is a couple weeks. That originally seemed too long; but after doing some thinking, that could amount to 30 turns in a campaign season.. So that seems adequate for a game, and means we don't have to tie ourselves down to a specific movement rate. Aside, I can remember a treadhead getting upset because "everyone knew" that a Panther tank could move at 30 miles per hour, and the movement rate in one game implied that they only moved at 10 miles per hour. Somehow the concept that tanks were not ships couldn't sink in.

The basis of movement is the hex. The map for Blitzkrieg is covered with hexes. Movement from one hex to the next costs one movement point. But the different terrain types will cost more. For rules purposes any terrain other than clear costs one movement point more. Thus rough terrain is woods, and hills. Crossing a river or entering a an enemy occupied hex costs one movement point more.

It might seem odd that there aren't different kinds of woods, and we don't take into account mountains. Armies tend to stay away from jungles, The Wilderness, the Alps, and so on. That's because armies have to eat. There's a good reason armies campaigned in rich agricultureal districts.

What about rivers? These are rivers significant from a military obstacle. This means th the stream that barely comes to the knees won't effect an army, but the Rhine is. So crossing a river might involve a ford such as the Rappahanock, or a bridging train. So one extra movement point more.

Roads are not your ordinary dirt path, or the ones that go from village to village. Roads paved with good bridges, drainage, and things like that. So roads negate terrain, and forces on a road pay only 1/2 movement point as long as they stay on the road.


Troops cannot move without a general (well, there's one exception, but this is voluntary movement).

Generals are rated for their 'get up and go'. Take a look at the Kipling poem "Stellenbosch". Some generals are more willing to move than others. In Freddie terms, this is a number that you add to the throw of 1d6 to to find out how far the general moves (and the men with him). Some generals are really sluggish, and this number is negative. Some will march their troops into the ground, and have the initiative of three. The most a stack can have is six movement points. If the resulting modified die throw is greater than six, there will be attrition (which we'll cover later).

Generals have ranks, and they must be moved in the order of their seniority. The highest ranking general in the stack is the one who controls the whole stack for initiative.

What about cavalry? Don't they move faster? Well, yes, and no. Horses get tired, need periodic rest, and so on. In the American Civil War there were cavalry raids galore, but the horses walked, didn't trot. Cavalry commanders out-thought their pursuers, not outran them. After all, the column gains its strength from all of the men/horses together, so losing them due to stragglers means you weaken their power. So they move at the walk, which is about the same as a walking man. While this isn't intuitively obvious, horses aren't motorcycles or bicycles. They need periodic rest, food, and water.

What about force marches? Actually, this isn't a column running, it's troops marching when normally they would be resting. The Union VI Corps, on its march to Gettysburg, did a force-march and traveled 31 miles in 24 hour period. Marlborough's men, on their way to Oudenarde, did a force-march, and covered 50 miles in one day! Note, 10-15 was normal.

So all of this will move stacks of troops around the map. Next we'll cover what happens when they need to eat. Supply can be complicated (I've written some complex supply rules), but they can also be simple and yet effective.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Project

I haven't given up on miniatures gaming, I've just been terriby lax about it. But any hobby you've pursued for 48 years cannot be put aside completely. So this is the inception of The Project.

What is it?

I have often felt the best tabletop games are generated by a campaign system. Years ago Jeff Cox and I did a campaign using the old SPI map for Cobra, and fighting the battles with the King's War Rules. It was a lot of fun, and we soon had a result. We also had a lot of battles that had reasons for being, and were not even fights on even terrain. Back in Indiana I took part in a WW1 Naval Campaign in the Med, and we mostly used General Quarters to resolve the fights, though some other rules were used for small ships and small-sized actions. We had really interesting fights that involved unequal forces, and the battles had strategic consequences.

This latter is often missing from most tabletop games. Oh, you're told that seizing this town or that ridge will give you a strategic victory, but too often there is a fight to the last soldier. With a campaign you have to preserve your forces for another day.

IMHO one of the best campaign systems around for boardgames was Frederick the Great, originally by SPI, but later Avalon Hill. You quickly learned that you could fight lots of battles, and have no army left, or you could preserve your forces, fight only when the situation warranted it, and spend a lot of time worrying about supply, your objective (usually a fortress), and so on. Whole campaigns could be fought without a major battle. Or you could rush right out, find the enemy, smash at him, and trust everything on one roll of the dice. If you lost, you could see your fortresses fall one after another, helpless to do anything to stop the onslaught.

The germ of the idea.

Two of the minor countries from the old Avalon Hill game Blitzkrieg are gearing up for a war. The political differences between Ober-Bindlestiff and Saxe-Schweinrot are many and deep, and mostly rooted in dynastic concerns. It's the 1730s or 1740s. Such fanciful things as cadenced step and so on are not around. I'm going to "write" the rules for the campaign (based on the Frederick the Great system), and then fight it out. The battles will be fought in miniature with the Volley & Bayonet, Road to Glory rules, though there might be a few modifications made to those rules if we hit some sticking points.

The Armies

The Foot in both armies is the multi-battalion regiment. In theory a regiment has 2,000 men, though some 1500 take the field. The rest are held back as training cadre (the depots). In V&B terms, a regiment in the field starts with three hits, or 100 men. As units get worn down from attrition and combat, replacements will be sent forward from the depots to make up the numbers.

The Horse is a mix of armored and unarmored cavalry. Regiments vary wildly in size, so they have been organized into Inspections, each of which fields a brigade of some 2,000 men, or 4 hits in V&B terms. Again, replacements are sent forward as needed. But the real replacements are in the winter. So armies will get smaller as the campaign goes on.

The Artillery does not have a depot system. Guns are expensive to make, but the men can be trained. They are organized in three components: first, the artillery assigned to the infantry. These are 'dedicated guns', or what were also called 'regimental artillery'. Then there are the field artillery, organized in battalions. These are assigned to a field army. Lastly are the fortress guns, and this includes a siege train for each army. These gunners train at the fortresses, and garrison them (with the depot battalions),

The Dragoons are not many, and don't appear too often in the major battles. They are mounted infantry, and are used for the outposting, recons, and so on, what light troops did later on. There most decidedly aren't hussars, chevaulegere, or the like.

These forces are all gathered under an army general, who has subordinates to assist him. And that will assist in the movement system.

So there will be more to come as the campaign rules are put out for people to see.